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Old Oct 20, 2012, 08:34 PM   #1
lulla01
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Mac mini as a media center? Advice?

Out of nowhere today I had the brilliant idea that instead of putting movies on my USB drive and plugging it into my ps3, I could buy a mac mini and attach a nice 3tb HDD and store a massive collection of movies and shows. Since airdrop, it would be easy to manipulate and populate my media library. I would connect it to my 60 inch TV with HDMI and probably download software like XMBC. Anyone with any experience? ideas? setups? I would really appreciate any kind of criticism and feedback. I don't know if it will get used enough to justify the 800 or so dollars i would probably spend on gear but it would be awesome to sit down and have a huge collection of movies on call. Another issue i worry about is fan noise from the mac mini and hard drive. Post away.
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Old Oct 20, 2012, 08:42 PM   #2
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yeah i run that setup.

mini with a external drive, for back ups and media.

Use apple tv, well a couple of apple tv's.

works well and i need to get into it i just screen share from my rmpb.
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Old Oct 20, 2012, 09:05 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by barbz41086 View Post
yeah i run that setup.

mini with a external drive, for back ups and media.

Use apple tv, well a couple of apple tv's.

works well and i need to get into it i just screen share from my rmpb.
Honestly, I think the apple tv is completely useless unless you rely fully on itunes and netflix.
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Old Oct 20, 2012, 09:13 PM   #4
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I use Plex on my mini and stream the stored media to my iPad using the Plex iPad app. Works across the house or the country (if you have the bandwidth). No need to buy a new mini as just about any mini made in the last few years will do HD with ease. Fan noise is not an issue unless you are constantly encoding videos... and even then its not an issue.
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Old Oct 20, 2012, 09:26 PM   #5
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The hdmi output is the reason I was going to buy new
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Old Oct 20, 2012, 09:31 PM   #6
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Any mini model since 2010 has HDMI.
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Old Oct 20, 2012, 11:53 PM   #7
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I use Plex on my mini and stream the stored media to my iPad using the Plex iPad app. Works across the house or the country (if you have the bandwidth). No need to buy a new mini as just about any mini made in the last few years will do HD with ease. Fan noise is not an issue unless you are constantly encoding videos... and even then its not an issue.
Do you have to pay a subscription fee to use the streaming functionality when not on the home network? I know the iPad and iPhone apps aren't free.
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Old Oct 21, 2012, 12:21 AM   #8
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Using the Mini as media centre is overkill. It is like putting a sexy blonde in a monastery. A new mini is a friggin PRO workstation!
Please grab a 50$ mediaplayer.....
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Old Oct 21, 2012, 12:22 AM   #9
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You mention using AirDrop to put content onto the Mac mini... why not just Screen Share to use the Mac mini as the downloader?

I'm waiting on a refresh because I'm looking at setting up a media center/home server Mac mini. My plan is to set up my Mac mini with PLEX or XBMC and either use mouse/keyboard or remote login to download content. Depending on the source of my stuff, I can also set up auto-downloads. If things are automated, not only does it save time of transferring media but I could also stream it to the Apple TV and Roku that I have in the house.

Air Drop would probably be slower than using USB and plugging it into your PS3.
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Old Oct 21, 2012, 12:53 AM   #10
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I bought a Mac Mini back in 2007? I think, just to be an iTunes music server. We use the included remote to choose songs while having drinks. I have it hooked up to a Yamaha Adventage receiver and it sounds great.

For movies, I have an Oppo Blu-Ray player that streams from Vudu, Netflix, etc.
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Old Oct 21, 2012, 01:01 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by lulla01 View Post
Honestly, I think the apple tv is completely useless unless you rely fully on itunes and netflix.
i run all my media through iTunes
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Old Oct 21, 2012, 10:28 AM   #12
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Do you have to pay a subscription fee to use the streaming functionality when not on the home network? I know the iPad and iPhone apps aren't free.
No subscription. You do need a decent upload speed on your home internet connection to view anything over SD.
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Old Oct 21, 2012, 10:43 AM   #13
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Using the Mini as media centre is overkill. It is like putting a sexy blonde in a monastery. A new mini is a friggin PRO workstation!
Please grab a 50$ mediaplayer.....
Strange concept of a "Pro Workstation" you have there.

2.3Ghz or 2.5Ghz Dual Core i5 doesn't sound very pro workstation to me.
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Old Oct 21, 2012, 10:53 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by lulla01 View Post
Out of nowhere today I had the brilliant idea that instead of putting movies on my USB drive and plugging it into my ps3, I could buy a mac mini and attach a nice 3tb HDD and store a massive collection of movies and shows. Since airdrop, it would be easy to manipulate and populate my media library. I would connect it to my 60 inch TV with HDMI and probably download software like XMBC. Anyone with any experience? ideas? setups? I would really appreciate any kind of criticism and feedback. I don't know if it will get used enough to justify the 800 or so dollars i would probably spend on gear but it would be awesome to sit down and have a huge collection of movies on call. Another issue i worry about is fan noise from the mac mini and hard drive. Post away.
I use XBMC and Plex and both are very good. I have a HTPC running OpenELEC which is a custom Linux distro with XBMC. I have a HP Microserver which streams media around the house. It runs Plexserver as well which enables me to watch media on my iPad and my Android smartphone.

The HTPC I have runs on an AMD Fusion platform. It cost me about 200 to put it together. It has enough oomph to playback any media I have thrown at it. It does make a little bit too much noise for my liking though. And that is only because it has a cheap PSU. You could probably get something as quiet as the Mac Mini now and as powerful for about 250. The Zotac Zbox is something to look at. Avoid any based on Celeron, Atom or VIA CPUs.

My main desktop PC is an iMac. I can manage everything from there. XBMC is more flexible when it comes to organising media. Plex is simpler to setup but for me gives less control.

I use my HTPC a LOT. It really is fantastic. I think the Mac Mini is great for this use but something like the ZBox will cost half as much and do the job just as well.

1. Buy a Mac Mini and stick Plex on it for something that looks great. Is effectively silent and really easy to setup.
2. Buy a ZBox or similar and stick XBMC on it for something that will playback everything you can think of. Is also effectively silent and incredibly customisable. It will take a little bit more tinkering to get it setup exactly how you like. Still really easy though.

Using either will be far more flexible than using any sort of media streamer. Media streamers can be slow. Play less media. Are less customisable. I have used them and wouldn't use one as long as I could afford a proper HTPC.
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Old Oct 21, 2012, 11:24 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by barbz41086 View Post
i run all my media through iTunes
With 24 TB of videos I'd have to do too many video conversions. I just use VLC for most things. VLC will even de-interlace video files (I have quite a few old interlaced video files) which is a great feature.

And I have too many videos to want to want to go through all the XBMC or Plex stuff. I like to have the Mac desktop so I can see all the drives and go right to the file I want to play. It may not be as "pretty" user interface wise, but it's a lot faster finding files.

But, for now I use my iMac to watch videos anyway. I haven't had a TV in close to 8 years. I may buy a big screen TV this year. If I do I'll buy a Mac-Mini to feed it video.

As always, YMMV.
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Old Oct 21, 2012, 11:28 AM   #16
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How do you backup 24TB of movies?
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Old Oct 21, 2012, 01:13 PM   #17
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How do you backup 24TB of movies?
Technically I don't. And space wise none of the drives are completely full. I have about 6 TB of free space between them.

In the beginning I bought a USB converter cable so I was ripping to "bare" IDE ATA drives. Then I bought a couple NexStar dual drive USB units since all the 2 TB drives are sata. I have one 2 drive "box" with two 2 TB drives connected now but those are each drives I back up data from my iMac. I have data files going back to about 1988 and an old 1400C PowerBook (and an 8500 which runs OS 9 running OS 9 which I can open old OS 9 files with (I still can run MacWrite, MacPaint, SuperPaint, the old Claris programs and *lots* of old OS 9 programs including games and stuff) on and I have a lot of data on 2 TB drives double backed up so in reality I have a lot more than 24 TB of drive space when you include drives with data files.

I've been ripping DVDs for a lot of years. BTW I'm in my 60's and lived through the VHS era, so I copied all my old VHS tapes to video files and gave my old VHS tapes to friends some years back. I started copying/ripping DVDs to 300MB drives. Then when prices came down I switched to 1 TB drives which I copied the 300 MB drives to and "filed" the 300's in the closet. Then when prices came down I switched to 2 TB drives and copied the 1 TB drives to and "filed them in the closet and sold the 300 MB drives I had (18 at the time, if I remember correctly). I have a bunch of 2 TB drives (20 or so) in the closet. Then I bought three OWC Firewire 800 Mercury Elite Pro Qx2 "Enterprise" 12 TB drives and set them up for RAID 5 with parity (which leaves about 8 TB per enclosure) and copied all the 2 TB drives to them and put the old 2 TB drives in the closet. This way I have 3 Firewire 800 (the 3 Mercury drives) drives with media (and 3 other drives with data backups and a Firewire 800 which I dedicated to TimeMachine on my iMac) all connected to my iMac and since all my computers are on my home/office LAN I can get on any computer in the house and *all* my media is right there by logging into my "main" iMac.

If it's not a DVD (in which case the built-in DVD player program is fine for me) I use VLC because (among a few other reasons) I also have an old EyeTV (the last one before they went to HDMI so I can use to record via component video so no DRM issues). So - I've got .mpg files, .mov files, .mp4 files, .avi files, DIVX files, .flv files, etc. VLC plays anything and the remote on my iPhone and iPad work very well. My plan is to buy a Mac-Mini and a 55" TV (probably January 2013) after I buy a new iMac. I have Plex and XBMC on my iMac and have used them, but they're too slow and it's too hard (takes too much time) to navigate to the files I want. VLC is also nice because I can quick and easy drag files from different drives into a Playlist. I'm sure Plex and XBMC have their place, but just aren't what I want. As always, YMMV.

The 3 Mercury Elite Pro Qx2 drives I have now are all sorta set up like a library. I have directories for genres and such, and each drive has specific genres and such. I keep my files pretty well organized.

I'm just an old, retired Mac freak. These days I keep some internet web sites up so I have computer equipment everywhere (PC's and Macs). As you can see, I've been registered here for a while but rarely posted (i.e.: I'm not a "regular" here). I've been waiting for the new iMacs (I have a 2008) to come out so I've been hanging around here waiting for rumors prior to the 23rd. My fingers are crossed that they'll really announce new 27" iMacs.

I'd link to some pictures but I don't really know what the link policy is here so I won't (but you can Google/Bing/DuckDuckGo/whatever for my user name here - It's one of my web sites).

EDIT ADD: My GF likes VLC, too. She can watch videos on a PC I have set up in another room while I am working on my iMac or if I want to watch something different. She's hoping I get a new iMac soon so I can put the PC somewhere else and put my 2008 iMac there because she prefers Mac over PC and she can't play DVDs on the PC which are on my iMac drives. There may be a way that it can be done, but I haven't found a way (and aren't really worried about that). And like me she likes to browse the files in the finder rather than navigate through stuff using Plex or XBMC.

Last edited by Elsmar; Oct 21, 2012 at 02:00 PM. Reason: See Edit Add
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Old Oct 21, 2012, 02:17 PM   #18
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Elsmar - you would be amazed at how quick either Plex or XBMC are to get setup.

Plex particularly is incredibly quick to get setup.

I think you would be surprised as well at how quick they are to navigate. They will also track what you have watched. You can also search for movies in your collection by genre or actor. It can be handy for example after watching a film with one actor to search for something else they are in.
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Old Oct 21, 2012, 03:01 PM   #19
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Quote:
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Elsmar - you would be amazed at how quick either Plex or XBMC are to get setup. <snip>
Like I say - I have tried them (I do have both of them installed and configured on my iMac), and I think for most people they make the most sense. And I'm old and "set in my ways". Even the servers I keep online running web sites are "bare bones" dedicated servers. No control panel or anything like that. I can do what ever I need to do using ssh and sftp.

Now - If my GF wasn't "computer literate", or if I was younger and had a wife and/or kids, I fully agree Plex or XBMC would be the way to go.

If I get a Mac-Mini and a TV (I've been seriously thinking about doing that in January next year) I'm sure I'll put both Plex and XBMC on it, but my bet is I'll just grab the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse out and bring the desktop up on the TV and go from there.

I also might be "anti" Plex and XBMC because I'm on a 2008 iMac. Both the Mac-Mini and the iMac are going to be upgraded (or so the rumor goes, and is why I'm hanging out in this forum so much right now as I drool awaiting the 23rd) and will flame the 2008 with regard to speed. If so, some of my negative experiences with Plex and XBMC may be negated.
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Old Oct 21, 2012, 07:41 PM   #20
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Honestly, I think the apple tv is completely useless unless you rely fully on itunes and netflix.
Sort of not at all.

I copied all my movie collection (using Handbrake) to my mac mini. It's the server, and it's in my basement.

I have 3 apple tvs throughout the house which play this content. Nothing was bought through iTunes at all, although technically, these movies are inside iTunes.

When we rent movies through RedBox, I copy them to my mac mini server, and they are immediately available through my Apple TV. So much more convenient than using ths DVD and being forced to watch previews or FBI warnings and such. My wife actually won't watch a DVD anymore, and only wants to see it through Apple TV.
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Old Oct 21, 2012, 08:32 PM   #21
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I didn't know you could rip DVDs to Apple TV and play them. Thanks for the "heads up". I'll have to look more closely at Apple TV. Cheap but last time I really had a look it was pretty limited in what it could play.
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Old Oct 21, 2012, 08:34 PM   #22
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I know someone that uses a mini that way, works fine.
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Old Oct 21, 2012, 08:36 PM   #23
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What formats will the Apple TV play? Or is it that you use a Mac-Mini to "feed" the Apple TV box? And do you have to rip a CD and then transcode it into iTunes (mp4 I assume)?
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Old Oct 21, 2012, 11:30 PM   #24
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What formats will the Apple TV play? Or is it that you use a Mac-Mini to "feed" the Apple TV box? And do you have to rip a CD and then transcode it into iTunes (mp4 I assume)?
Rip the DVD/Bluray to the Mac and use Handbrake to transcode (.mkv to .mp4 for me). Drag and drop into iTunes and turn on home sharing. The Apple TV can then play the movie (or whatever else) from the iTunes library. It's cool. But the Mac has to be on with iTunes open to be 'seen' by the Apple TV.
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Old Oct 22, 2012, 12:21 AM   #25
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the main point is "do you want your Mini to running 24/7"

if not

get a NAS and use that as the main Media library, you can then access the NAS with whatever device you are using at that time.
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